Polycom VVX-1500 Keeps On Truckin

The other day I had to stage a little test that required a few SIP end points. For a lark, I powered up a Polycom VVX 1500 that has lived on my credenza for quite some time. It’s been idle for a long while, basically since the VVX 600 took the prime spot on my desk and became my daily driver.

vvx-1500 frontal

It happens that we don’t have POE everywhere I’d like, so the elder VVX had been powered off for a bit. Applying power, it began to boot, which is a process that can take some time. On this particular occasion, a considerable time, as it seems the device found a firmware update and automatically began to install it. I had forgotten that the VVX 1500 had been configured to use boot.onsip.com as its boot server.

While it fetched and loaded new firmware I had some time to lookup the current state of software offered for the VVX 1500. I was amazed to find that the old VVX 1500 is still actively supported! The latest firmware is 5.9.1.0615 released in January 2019. The OnSIP provisioning server offered 5.8.3.2414 which appears to be from Q4-2018.

that’s impressive for a device over ten years old. This one came my way when Small Net Builder asked me to review a pair. That review was published in September 2009. The folks at OnSIP did their own review in 2011.

While its video capabilities now seem dated (CIF resolution) the VVX 1500 remains the single best sounding phone I’ve ever used. It’s impressive that Polycom is still able to offer firmware updates for the mighty beast. Such longevity is testament to a very forward looking hardware design.

Other products I’ve used, Gigasets for example, are so hardware constrained that software support tends to be limited. The device has just enough memory to function. Over time, as the firmware invariably grows in size, it will be left behind.

I see that other iconic Polycom, the SoundStation IP7000, is currently sporting 4.0.14 firmware released in December 2018. It is also a remarkably long-lived product. We were still buying them for ZipDX projects in June 2017. In truth, it has well and truly been superseded by the Trio 8000 Series, which are dramatically more flexible.

My sit/stand desk has a little more space since I switched from a dual-monitor arrangement to a single 4K display. Maybe it’s time to take the burly VVX 1500 for a spin as my daily desktop phone once again. It sounds so great, and those metal buttons are just so…polished.

Using four webcams on a single computer

The other day over the in the vMix User Group on Facebook Mark Schutte asked the following:

Is there a way to get VMIX to work with multiple USB webcams at the 720 or 1080 settings? I’ve been able to get up to four webcams to work only if they are set to lower resolutions. USB 3.1 and USB-C provide more than enough bandwidth but it always gives a USB bandwidth error message when the webcams are set to higher resolutions.

Mark Schutte

Given my long-running exploration of webcams, I felt that I was especially well positioned to address this question. After all, how many people have a collection of such items readily at hand? While I answered in the comment trail on facebook, I think the info is worth sharing here as well.

Continue reading “Using four webcams on a single computer”

Everything Old Is New Again. Logitech Introduces C920s HD Pro Webcam.

Our friends a Logitech made some news recently. They introduced the C920s HD Pro Webcam. This model is a minor respin of their older C920, which was and remains, the most popular webcam in the world, despite the introduction of several new models.

C920S-frontal

What’s changed vs the older variant? Not much. The “s” in the C920s name supposedly denotes stereo microphones, which should impact almost no-one. It also has an external privacy shutter. That’s a nice thing. In the past those concerned about privacy bought one of these after-market solutions.

It’s curious to compare the C920s to the C922x Pro Stream Webcam which was introduced around 18 months ago. These two models are very similar. The major technical difference is the fact that the C922x can deliver 720p at 60 frames/second, which is potentially of interest to the game streaming crowd.

C920s vs C922x

From a bundling point of view the C920s gets the external privacy shutter, while the C922x comes with a 3 month trial of XSplit.

The C922x originally included a copy of Personify’s Chromacam. I’m told that offer has been withdrawn. I tinkered with ChromaCam but found it less than useful.  Such a tool trades performance for the convenience of not having to setup and light a green screen. I’ve rarely seen an acceptable result.

Xsplit now offers VCam, which is their own freestanding background removal tool.

I accept that my opinion may be harsh. It’s informed by direct experience with Ultimatte and broadcast production switchers in a past life.

The biggest change brought by the new model is the fact that it’s sold as UVC compliant. The old C920, while basically UVC compliant, by default installed a Logitech driver. That driver did not allow more than one camera to be used per computer. The XSplit team found that the Logitech driver leaned hard on the CPU, which was a problem for gamers streaming their game play.

It was trivially easy to hack Windows into treating the C920 as a generic UVC webcam. I did this so long ago I can’t even remember how. Happily, if you buy the C920s you won’t have to. The C920s will simply appear via the built-in UVC driver of your host OS.

While no driver is required, Logitech now offers their Capture application, which I intend to examine on its own. A Windows version of Capture was released into beta in Q4-2018, with a Mac version planned for later this year.

I suppose it was inevitable that such a successful product could not simply be retired. Logitech’s venerable C920 webcam lives on as the C920s, at a reduced price and with updated supporting software.

 

Videomaker Reviews the NewTek NDI HX-PTZ1 Camera

Not long ago I openly admitted that I wear the rants in the family. This goes along those lines. It was inspired by the Chris Monlux’s review of the NewTek NDI HX-PTZ1 Camera published January 14th by Videomaker Magazine. I found this review to be deeply disappointing, and I’d like to tell you why.

First, take the time to read their review. I’ll wait. And you need the context.

Continue reading “Videomaker Reviews the NewTek NDI HX-PTZ1 Camera”

NDI-to-HDMI on the cheap?

There is no question that Newtek’s NDI is rocking the world of video production. Whether in corporate video, educational video, live streaming or low-end broadcast, it allows a transition to IP transport that’s profoundly attractive in many ways.

NDI delivers high quality video at very low latency, under one frame of video. A 1080p60 NDI stream requires at most around 150 mbps. This is ideal for production applications, which are quite separate from transmission/delivery, where lower bitrates are preferred and some seconds of delay is tolerable.

ClueCon NDI Feed on Monitor

In the early days of NDI, if you needed to view an NDI signal on a monitor that required a Windows PC running NDI Studio Monitor. This is an application that can pick the stream off the network and display it on a monitor. It has some nice features, like the ability to overlay a second stream (picture-in-picture) and show audio metering.

I used this approach at Cluecon 2018, with a very small PC purchased just for the task (pictured above.)

Continue reading “NDI-to-HDMI on the cheap?”

Review: Logitech’s Brio 4K Webcam Pro

My how time flies. It hard to believe that I’ve had Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro in my office for well over a year. While I reported some cursory observations here and here, I’ve yet to give it a proper review…until now.

Brio is Logitech’s first 4K webcam.

As you may recall, I was quite eager to get my hands on a next-generation webcam. I had high hopes for what might be possible using a faster USB 3 connection to the host and a more modern sensor. Brio certainly addresses those areas and more.

My initial evaluation of Brio stalled for quite some time. At that time neither my desktop nor laptop, both a circa 2013, were up to the task of handling 4k video in real-time. While I was using Brio every week, I wasn’t properly able to exercise the little beast.

Happily, the eventual purchase of the Airtop-PC has provided a more than capable host platform. The Airtop has the CPU, GPU and connectivity necessary to cope with 4K video without breaking a sweat. Or making a peep.

Further, as part of my preparations for ClueCon 2018 I upgraded my vMix license to the 4K edition. This gave me both 4K capability and remote control of the PTZ Optics NDI cameras that I rented from Tom Sinclair at Eastern Shore Broadcasting.

Suitably tooled up for the task, I’ve been able to give the little Brio more of a workout in recent months. What follows are my observations from daily use and a series of experiments.

Continue reading “Review: Logitech’s Brio 4K Webcam Pro”